Amid growing tensions with China, the Biden administration is forging closer economic ties with Taiwan in areas including trade, supply chains and technology-export controls.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s office on Wednesday unveiled a new pact with Taipei to promote bilateral trade in areas such as digital trade, clean energy and labor rights. The two partners will also collaborate to address nonmarket practices and policies, including those conducted by state-owned enterprises, an issue representing Washington’s leading complaint about China’s trade policy.
Separately, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is launching a separate dialogue with Taiwan to address technology trade and investments, citing the importance of Taiwan as a leading supplier of advanced semiconductors. Export controls of sensitive technologies will also be addressed by this initiative, senior administration officials said.
Taiwan wasn’t invited to join a new economic cooperation pact with a dozen Asia-Pacific nations and the U.S. when it was launched by President Biden last week amid concerns by some participants that it could anger Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as its territory. Administration officials say the pact unveiled Wednesday shows the U.S. commitment toward bolstering ties with Taiwan. U.S. trade with Taiwan has expanded sharply in the wake of tariffs on Chinese imports imposed by the former Trump administration.
The latest announcement could further strain Washington’s relationship with Beijing. During his visit to Tokyo last month, Mr. Biden said that the U.S. would intervene militarily if China invaded Taiwan—drawing a harsh response from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, who said “no forces, the U.S. included, can hold back the Chinese people’s endeavor to reunify the nation.”
The announcements of new initiatives come as the Biden administration steps up its economic engagement with Asia-Pacific nations to counter China’s influence and supplement Washington’s already strong military commitment in the region.
Leading that effort is the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, designed to counter China’s influence through cooperation in areas like supply chains, clean energy and digital standards. The group was started with a dozen other nations including Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand and seven countries in the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Fiji joined later.
Taiwan is at the core of U.S. officials’ growing concerns about the highly concentrated production of semiconductors in East Asia, an issue that has gained urgency amid the pandemic-induced chips shortage that has crimped manufacturing of products from consumer electronics to vehicles. According to the White House’s supply-chain report, 92% of the world’s supply of advanced semiconductors came from the island’s Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. in 2021.